January 12, 2020

keyboards in retrospective, 2019

My Ganymede keyboard went through three big revisions in 2019 and I learned a lot from each of those. This is my personal retrospective of the mechnical keyboard I created, and where I want to take it next.

First, I learned that I really prefer thin keyboards. The height of the Ganymede has slowly dropped between the revisions, and each revision I enjoyed typing on more.
Revision 1 was the most high version because of the wooden case I cut myself we're talking about 25mm to 30mm. This revision was tilted, leading to the difference in height between front and back.
In Revision 2 I changed to a 3D printed case, which reduced height a little to about ~22mm. Both revision 1 and 2 are using cherry mx switches, and the best way I found to drop the height considerably was to switch to kailh choc switches. In Revision 3 I reached ~13mm total height, with switches and keycaps installed. It's amazingly comfortable to type on. One side effect of the height is that I don't want to tilt the keyboard anymore.
While I don't know where I'll take this, I'm sure the keyboard will get thinner in 2020.

Second, I like designing PCBs which look well organized, but I prefer to type on something which looks like a consumer grade keyboard. The home build wood case for Revision 1 was functional, but honestly revision 2 was the first revision I was really proud of and wanted to type on. That leads me to dismiss any keyboard which is sandwhich style, showing the PCB anywhere. It's just not aesthetic. The big issue I felt with my Ganymede case were opening due to connector cutouts and lightning, and I hope to find good solutions for this in the future.

Third, ESD protection is a must. Before getting into custom mechanical keyboard PCBs I bought a couple of PCB kits, which, without naming any names, basically all died from shocks caused by the carpet I have at home. I feel like I wasted that money, and for a keyboard I use daily it's just unacceptable. The Ganymede will most likely gain even more protection against any kind of discharges and shocks, as I want my keyboard to be extremely reliable; after all, If I can't use it for a long period of time it's useless.

Fourth, RGB and OLED are nice. I introduced RGB underglow and per-key RGB in revision 2, but I feel both features are pretty useless. Introducing both features increased the time between revisions a lot. I had to do more research, prototype more hard- and software and spent a lot more time on routing the PCB. For something which is nice to look at but basically has no value add I will probably drop this entirely. Dropping the RGB underglow will also resolve the issues of openings in the case I was so unhappy with.

Fifth, I'm pretty happy with the current keyboard layout; between the revisions the distance between switches got smaller because kailh choc switches are build for 18.05 x 17.05mm spacing, and nothing else changed. However I feel that rotating entire columns slightly would lead to a more natural hand position. So that's definitively something I want to experiment with in 2020.

Lastly, I'm really unhappy with the integration of mouse movement. I have to lift my right hand every time I want to move the cursor, just because the QMK integration for mouse movement is not fine enough to be useful for day to day work. I'm not sure how a solution here will look like, as most options you find in other keyboards, like small joysticks or encoders, don't address the issue of hand movement. Hopefully I'll find a working solution I like in 2020.

With that said, I'm very much looking forward to I learn about keyboards in 2020, and how the future evolution of the Ganymede will look like.

So here's to the future of my mechanical keyboard :)

© Raphael Randschau 2010 - 2020 | Impressum